Why There’s No iPhone 9

And other mysteries of naming tech

Simon Pitt
OneZero
Published in
11 min readNov 8, 2019

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Photo by Tayler Smith. Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

NNaming things is hard. Products, code functions, dogs — they all need names, and trying to come up with good ones is tough. iPad and Ruffles seem fine, but once you lift the lid, iPad sounds a bit like a sanitary product and you can easily feel silly at 9 p.m. shouting “Ruffles!” into the darkness.

Say what you want about the Galactic Empire from Star Wars, but they really weren’t good at naming vehicles. The Death Star isn’t a star. It famously isn’t even a moon. Star Destroyers don’t destroy stars — they can’t even destroy planets. And don’t get me started on the “All Terrain” flavor of vehicles that slip on logs and trip over wires.

Given all of this, you can see why software engineers like numbers. You can’t go wrong with numbers: one, two, three, and so on — we learned it all at school. Come up with a single name, increase a number for each subsequent version, and you can call it a day. And yet, looking at products all around us, it seems that most companies can’t even get that to work.

Getting ready to see if they can count up to nine. Credit: Johny vino/Unsplash.

Windows

Windows 1, Windows 2, Windows 3 — it all started so well. Then there was Windows 3.1, which I guess gets partial credit. After that they skipped a few and went straight to Windows 95, followed by Windows 98.

Windows ME was next. Or perhaps that didn’t count. There was also Windows 2000, but that was technically Windows NT 5.0 and on a different “branch” of numbers.

After Windows 98 came Windows XP and Windows Vista. At this point, it seemed like they’d given up on numbers and switched to fancy words. But then, just when you least expected it, we were back to numbers with Windows 7 and Windows 8.

At the time, I couldn’t quite work out how we got to seven. Did Vista not count? Microsoft’s explanation was that 95, 98, and ME were all Windows 4, 2000 and XP were Windows 5, and Vista was Windows 6. So there were secret numbers that worked properly behind the scenes that they didn’t tell us about? I’m not sure that helps their case much.

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Simon Pitt
OneZero

Media techie, software person, and web-stuff doer. Head of Corporate Digital at BBC, but views my own. More at pittster.co.uk